Real Interviews: Barry Fuhrman

Luke: This week we have on Barry Fuhrman of the web series, The Variants and actual employee of Zeus Comics. Barry is online on Twitter at KingBaz. How are you doing?
Barry: I am enough for a Sunday afternoon wherein I accomplished absolutely nothing that I needed to accomplish. I did have some Twizzlers, though, so I suppose it’s not a complete wash.

Luke: Twizzlers are pretty amazing.
Barry well : They are! Especially the sweet and sour ones. Completely addictive. And squishy.
Luke: Better than sour patch straws?
Barry: Those things will do in a pinch but can’t hold a candle to the Twizzlers.
Luke: What got you into comics?
Barry: A lack of anything better to do? I honestly don’t recall exactly, aside from being fixated on cartoons from a very early age. I grew up on a farm in the desolate barren outskirts of a small town in the 70s, so it was either obsess over Peter Parker’s exploits or clean the chicken coop. I seem to recall pretty much learning to read on Marvel comics.
Luke: Any idea what the first comic you got was?
Barry: I can remember the first record I bought for myself, but I can’t for the life of me recall my first comic, which I take as a huge failing on my part. I am almost 110% positive it would have been something Spider-Man related, probably an issue of Amazing or Marvel Team-Up. My stack of comics from early childhood barely survived into the 80s. I laid complete waste to them reading them cover to cover and back again, so at best there are vague memories. I will come across back issues at the store occasionally and have an “ah ha” moment seeing something I haven’t looked at since it first came out and entered into my filthy hands.
Luke: How do you feel about comics now, compared to as a kid?
Barry: Oh goodness, that’s a topic I could go on about for weeks. It is actually a conversation that we have at the store a lot. I still love them. No question, full stop.
But I think there is that notion that what came before, what we grew up with, is so much better than what is happening now. I don’t subscribe to that sort of thinking. I can’t compare the experience of first being introduced to comics and all the characters and all that goes with it to how one feels about these things thirty or more years on. It’s a matter of taste, ultimately, and my tastes still veer toward big colorful super hero fights and ridiculous situations, no matter how the Big Two still sometimes try to push me off. I might read them with a wee bit more scrutiny now as an adult than I did as child, but I don’t love them any less.
Luke: Do you think that webcomics are helping to change the face and style of comics, or if not currently, that they ever will?
Barry: I think there is still a very unfortunate wall between the web and physical comics. I think slowly but surely they are being treated as something that is viable, something to take seriously. The bigger publishers will of course never deign to touch anything that isn’t commercial, or able to be made into a movie, but I think that web comics have come a long way in a very short time. It’s almost two completely separate industries, which is fine. That’s okay if they never have the same prominence as something that can have any number of movies and merchandise made of it, but I think they’ve cemented themselves as being here to stay.
Luke: I know in the foreign markets some webcomics are Korea and I think in one of the Scandinavian countries ended up getting wide film releases.
Barry: Comics are also, as a rule, viewed very differently in other countries. We still have this weird idea that comics are for kids, but I think that is slowly changing. And I think that we’ve seen a shift where comics that are not just super heroes can be successful in their own right. Those two things right there are two of the biggest shifts we’ve seen just from within the confines of Zeus over the last 12 years. And it is definitely something we’ve tried to present in the store, that yes, there are always super heroes, but no they are not always for kids. And there are some really great comics that do not revolve around people in tights and capes. We’ve seen more than a few customers discover things far outside their normal frame of reference, people who start with something like the X-Men books and then suddenly this whole other world of comics, both published and web, that are just as exciting to them as soap opera mutant antics. I might have gotten a little off track with that one.
Luke: Haha. It is fine. I worked in a shop for a while and it is important to see “comics aren’t just for kids and they aren’t all capes”. Shifting over to fun stuff – what would be your ultimate Spider-man team up if he could team up with any character?
Barry: That’s surprisingly tough. A character from a Forster novel. In all seriousness, I would lovely to see him paired up with a Japanese manga or anime character that is iconic as he is here; I think that would translate well. My mind is reeling at the possibilities but not grabbing on to any one thing.
Luke: haha, it is fine.
Barry: A team up with Kyle Rayner always made sense to me, but that may have already happened.
Luke: Do you think Kyle Rayner would have made a better Green Lantern for the movie than Hal Jordan?
Barry: Oh yeah, definitely. I am somewhat biased there, though. I think Kyle is so much more fascinating and full of possibilities than Hal. Hal never made sense to me. I always loved the idea of Green Lantern but it wasn’t until Guy and John and then Kyle that I really liked the character under the mask. Ryan Reynolds I think would have even made more sense as Kyle.
Luke: I don’t think Hal Jordan deserved to be the Green Lantern in that film.
Barry: I think Kyle, much like Peter Parker, is such a relatable character to so many people. Hal is about as interesting to me as stale bread.
Luke: Like his character was a jerk who got everything he wanted before he got the ring.
Barry: I would totally agree with that. I don’t know if a change of character could have saved that movie, but I think they might have come up with something far more interesting.
Luke: I never got why the Green Lanterns don’t pick people who’d actually help the world and make it better. When is the kid who suffers walking 10 miles to get water for his family going to get a ring?
Barry: That was one of the things they tried to do with making Kyle into Ion, right? Didn’t he actually try to make the world a better place in realistic terms? It’s been so long since I read that; I can’t remember.
Luke: I’d not be the guy to ask.
Barry: Let’s just say it was, and that I’m right.
Luke: Easier than reading most 90’s comics.
Barry: Yes, definitely. That was a very rough period to be a comics reader. I still don’t know how I made it through comics in the 90s without giving it up completely. I definitely trimmed my reading habits, but it also allowed me to discover a lot of stuff that wasn’t Big Two or Image.
Luke: The Variants recently entered it’s third season. Is there anything cool you can vaguely hint at with one word summaries like you are doing teaser posters for an upcoming comic event?
Barry: I am sworn to secrecy, my lips are sealed! I will say that this week’s episode is one of the cast’s favorites; I really do hope it turns out to be as fun to watch as it was to make it. I suppose one word for that would be: trashy.
Luke: Ooooh! Is there anything you’d like to plug?
Barry: The only thing that comes to mind is that Zeus is opening its new location this Wednesday, September 26. We’re very excited about this move, and the new place is looking great so far. It’s a fair amount bigger than the current space (roughly double the size!); we scarcely know what to do with all that extra space. Open a bar, I suppose.
Luke: Open a restaurant/gaming room.
Barry: We are talking about gaming. It was something we wanted to do when we first opened, and it just never happened. And it will not smell like Mountain Dew and melted Twix Bars.
Luke: Hahaha. Well Barry, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview.
Barry: You’re welcome, of course. I apologize for my inability to answer anything with less than a paragraph.
Luke: No problem.

Luke Herr

Luke is a writer and an aspiring professional comic writer who is also the editor in chief of Nerdcenaries. He currently is working on a graphic novel called Prison Spaceship.